Perpetuus Advanced Materials Plc, Swansea University and
A PRODUCER of nanomaterials used in tyres has been working with scientists to understand the exposure to their workers during the manufacturing of their product.
Perpetuus Advanced Materialsin Swansea produces graphene which helps improve the properties of polymers. These materials have many uses, but when introduced into tyres, they enhance performance such as breaking, rolling resistance and abrasion resistance. They have already been used on bikes, particularly those entered into the major competitive cycling events globally. They now aim to develop passenger vehicle tyres.
Ian Walters, the firm’s director, said: “Nanomaterials are a material that has the potential to breach a barrier i.e. the skin, as well as interact with internal organs, such as the lung tissue following the inevitable human exposure”. “However, the public should be comforted by the fact we are responsible producers”.
Perpetuus Advanced Materials has collaborated with Swansea University through the Celtic Advanced Life Science Innovation Network (CALIN) to monitor the workforce’s exposure to nanomaterials that may escape during the manufacturing process. Mr Walters said the data being generated by Swansea University Medical School is helping to drive the business forward.
The company intends, via collaborative ventures, to install plants strategically throughout the globe. The proposed strategic partners take great comfort from the monitoring programmes implemented via this CALIN project.
“We don’t have the expertise in-house, without the support of Swansea University Medical School it would not be economically viable to undertake this exercise” he added.
Dr Martin Clift, Associate Professor within the In Vitro Toxicology Group at Swansea University Medical School, led by Prof. Shareen Doak, said “The focus was upon establishing the impact of nanomaterials towards human health under ‘real-life’ conditions”. “To fully understand the benefits posed by nanomaterials, it is essential that we understand what the human exposure to nanomaterials is,” he said. “By being provided the opportunity given to us by nanomaterial manufacturers, such as Perpetuus, to study the actual dose exposed to workers, it allows scientists the ideal scenario to deduce the real risk that nanomaterials may pose towards human health.”
Harriet Risby, the PhD student who is conducting the research, explained further how the workers’ exposure is monitored. “We first observe how Perpetuus manufacture the nanomaterials, and with specialised devices we monitor the levels of nanomaterials in the air before, during and after the manufacturing process”. She added that airborne nanomaterials will be inhaled. “Since inhalation is the primary form of occupational exposure to nanomaterials; air monitoring is vitally important for understanding levels exposed to workers during nanomaterial manufacture. Understanding these levels then allow us to further assess the hazard that they may pose to human health”.
Once the monitoring study has been completed, the scientists at Swansea University will share the information with Perpetuus Advanced Materials, allowing the company to introduce new to firm processes to ensure the protection of their nanomaterial manufacturing workforce.